vrijdag 18 april 2014

Education, education, education & war. Kaiser Chiefs

Wind is blowing, seagulls screeching and from this the familiar sound of Peanuts' keyboard comes forward. After these desolate notes that blend with mother nature's calls, the band kicks in. Forceful, tight and with determination. My very first exposure to 'The factory gates' made me think: Yes, Kaiser Chiefs is back. Is that thought the correct one?

Having listened to Education, education, education and war several times brought another question  to mind as well, the answer of which answers the previous one as well. Is the leaving of Nick Hodgson a blessing in disguise for Kaiser Chiefs? That is the question I'm left with after listening to Education, education, education & war. Kaiser Chiefs debuted with 'Employment' in 2005. An album filled with only hits (o.k., two songs weren't). 'Yours truly, angry mob' consolidated this position in 2007, not least because of the great single 'Ruby' that was on it. 'Off with their heads (2008) seemed to have been made in too great haste. 2012's 'The future is medieval' was all concept, but not a good album. Kaiser Chiefs at that point in its career started playing greatest hits festivals. Not a good point to be at with your fourth album. That makes Education (3x) & war a very important album, in my opinion. When now ex-drummer and principal songwriter Hodgson walked in that fated day late in 2012 to announce his retirement from the band, the other members must have been quite disappointed and perhaps feared for their future as professional musicians as well. The days of 'Employment' are long behind us. The long oohs and aahs over, but what brings Education?

My first impulse is that the leaving of Hodgson seems to have been a blessing in disguise. Education is a strong album with great (power) pop-rock songs, that have good melodies, balls and spunk. Something that was lacking in the band's previous two efforts. Whether this can only be attributed to Hodgson's leaving is hard to tell for an outsider, but it may well be that others took responsibility for their own future and Kaiser Chief's. The "ha-ha-ha-ha-" part in 'Misery company' may sound a bit preposterous, Kaiser Chiefs have never rocked so exuberantly with a hard and harsh sounding guitar solo by Andrew "Whithey" White. 'Ruffians on parade' is a song Maxïmo Park can only dream of making ever again it seems. Great melody, tight and rocking. New drummer Vijay Mistry proves himself to be a good addition to the band.

Another reason of Kaiser Chief's resurrection could be singer Ricky Wilson. I didn't even recognise him on the promo photo's. A thin, well-trained man showed himself. Apparently he has taken to running instead of drinking. Being fitter gives more energy and the ability to rock harder. Is the explanation this easy? It may well be. Education has that spark again that made Kaiser Chiefs what it was: a band that plays good time fun music, great to sing along with and produced with a load of energy. All these elements were largely missing on album three and four. They are back and although Education will never be an 'Employment', it is a return to form for Kaiser Chiefs.

What I really like is that most songs have great extras in them. Sounds that pop up, the guitar that is allowed to really go off into uncharted territories and fun harmonies that really are back. Peanut's keyboard shines in all sorts of different sounds. The veil of drabness is lifted this way, songs polished so hard they shine beyond believe. Kaiser Chiefs obviously is hard work, but the play element is fully restored. So everyone is named except bassist Simon Rix. I've read that he was the driving force behind education, the keeper of quality. If so, well done, Mr. Rix.

'My life' really makes the fold. What an exuberant song! It sparkles and sizzles the whole way. 'Bows & arrows' is aimed at festivals. The middle part begs huge crowds clapping hands above their heads. 80s sounding keyboards propel the song forward. 'Bows & arrows' is not the best song on Education, but certainly may have the largest effect when played live. The concept of a bow and an arrow as separate, but useless, items and the worth they have when used together is quite a truth about life in general. 'Cannons' may be a bit too ambitious, especially the long poem/story at the end, but holds some truths as well, that sometimes beg being told. The tenth and last song is 'Roses'. Perhaps that song could better have been presented to Robbie Williams. So there you go, some positive feedback as well.

Kaiser Chiefs may make a second statement here beyond its own musical one. In 2014 there is no chance at 'Employment' without 'Education'. A lesson for all, youth and adults alike. Education, education, education & war is full of ambition and delivers just that. Kaiser Chiefs is back. Enjoy it!


You can listen to 'Misery company' here.

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